St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Friday, January 20, 2017

2017 Trip South Planning

  After 5 long years in the labor camps of the US Siberian woodlands,  Margo and I are planning to spend a few weeks in the Southern States beginning next week.   
  For many years from the 1990s through 2011, we spent a week at first each winter, then after retirement in 2005, up to 6 weeks somewhere along the southern tier of states.  Far enough down to be in the 60s during the day and 40s at night, but not down there where the folks from the north get so thick they are a burden with their Fargoesque brogues. 
   In 2012 I had knee problems and a new knee put in.  In 2013, Margo was fighting cancer and me Myasthenia gravis. Then a couple of back surgeries with Margo left her quite weak and wobbly, so we hunkered down and stayed in the North, spending some time in our Pine Island MN house (130 miles south of the Farm in Wisconsin)--but not really any warmer. 
   Now, with Margo doing better, we decided to try it again.  Part of the difficulty is we haven't given up the sort of roughing it camping style, at least we haven't given it up mentally.    
  We like quiet state parks (most of them are if they aren't right on the ocean during winter), and using our pop-up canvas walled camper.  That means going far enough to be comfortable in it. 
   The beds are not like home, the steps up and down getting in and out need care, the bathrooms aren't even down the hall, but down the row of campsites.  I am eager to try it and see how well we cope.  If it doesn't work out, we will trade the Olds and old camper in for something with more amenities and something that will pull it.  
   Anyway right now we are planning on being on the road Monday, starting from Pine Island, MN with the goal of reaching Branson, MO the first day -- about 550 miles.  Branson, the big music tourism showplace is in off season, with lots of motels and competitive rates.  The next day we should be far enough south to set up the camper overnight.  
   The car is almost ready. Tried taking the camper for a drive to Cushing and back, but the trailer lights plug and the car one wouldn't quite fit--so had to get a new one to put on the camper. 

 Warning--- A discussion of sec and mating  follows:   The two plugs that won't mate.  The top one is outside a female, three inside male plugs and a female on the right. It is on the trailer.  The one in the trunk is supposed to slip gently into this one.  Even K-Y jelly didn't help.  

The plug below is overall a male on the top with 3 female sockets and a male plug.  The second part of it is 4 female sockets.   I think this must be what is called transgender -- or maybe mixed gender.   

The parts woman at autoparts are us made me blush furiously as she tried to explain the variation in sizes of male and female parts, and finally we decided I would just to an organ transplant on the trailer end so the mating would be accomplished for the trip.  

The 1991 Olds attached to the early 1990 Jayco tent camper. Jayco 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

2016 Sterling Eureka and Laketown Historical Society (Jan 19, 2017)

     Today was the 2016 Christmas Party for the Sterling Eureka and Laketown Historical Society.  We have been around since 2000, and have settled on having our Christmas parties in January so we have something to break up the winter.  The Wolf Creek Church is a great place to have it, with a kitchen, serving counter, gracious hosts, and a feeling of history in the 1922 building.  (95 years old--creeping up on 100).  
     The weather was sunny, 44F, with the January thaw in place leaving a layer of wet mud on the sandy parking lot -- one of the few times of the year that the Sterling Barrens sands feels muddy. 
     When I went to school here, we always hoped for a January or February thaw that melted enough snow to fill the low area along the River Road next to the cemetery with water which turned into a skating pond.  Most years it was only a week or two in March before the ground thawed and the water percolated into the sand, but once in a while it lasted and we could skate (if we could find some skates from an aunt or uncle to borrow). 
    The pot-luck part of the party is better than a restaurant as we get a variety of home made hot dishes, salads and desserts.  We brought a ham and that friend Neil gave us as a thank you for bow hunting in our woods. Too big for a couple of old folks, but fine for 20 people at a Christmas party!
    The program was informal, learning about Wolf Creek from each other.  Orlow Widvey (94?) came to Wolf Creek when he was 4 years old, and told us about the people and stores he remembered. 
We learned a little about Nevers Dam and the Blair cabins (at Riverside Auto) and Duane Doolittle, secretary and treasurer of the Wolf Creek Cemetery Society gave us some history of the cemetery -- started about 1865 and still thriving. 
  We ate from noon - 1pm; learned from 1pm - 2pm; and then went outside to play for recess.  

   A good time was had by all!   

20 folks came out in the 44F sunny weather to enjoy a great potluck lunch, visiting and learn about the history of Wolf Creek

The tables are in the "big room" (grades 5-8) of the 1922 Wolf Creek School House.  The floors are original hardwood, the walls have been recovered and the ceiling lowered. 

Orlow Widvey came to Wolf Creek 90 years ago when he was 4 years old, and went to this school in the 1920s.  He told us about the neighborhood when he was young.  Mostly just the store, bar, dam and folks who lived in the area.  Retherfords, Fisks, Dahls, Louis', Montys, Fors, Lagoos, Blairs, and others.  

Margie Mattson, in front, was a student teacher at Wolf Creek for a week in 1955-- from the Polk County Normal (teacher's) college.  She taught the Hanson boys, but we must have behaved that week as I don't remember anything.  I mostly remember the times I did something wrong rather than when I was good.  

Visiting and waiting in line for lunch


Some photos of Old Wolf Creek, around since 1831 when it was an Indian Trading post. 

Looking to the far back left, the opening into the "little room" grades 1-4, now the church sanctuary with pews from the 1890s first made for the Cushing Methodist Church, then to the Eureka Methodist Church and now at the Wolf Creek Methodist Church. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

How Cold Is It?

This week, winter finally caught up with us on the Farm here in NW Wisconsin.  The warmest fall in my memory and most meterologists, continued a few days into December, but finally with my 70th birthday, December 10th, temperatures have continued to drop each day with this morning -15F.  

  On the 9th of December, my real birthday according to Mom who said that I was born at 11:55pm on the 9th rather than 12:05 AM on the 10th as Dr. Jacob Arthur Riegel wrote on my birth certificate info, I was in Mayo Clinic having a 15 minute second cataract removal operation -- right eye this time a month after the left eye. 

   Bought a cheap pair of reading glasses to see close and can see in the distance very well with brighter vision too -- sort of like taking the 1955 TV to the repairman and getting it rejuvenated (yep, they did that to sort of shock the TV into another year or two of brighter images as it aged).  
  No more fogging lenses as I go in and out in the winter; no more worrying about breaking glasses in outdoor activities.  However, as a severely nearsighted person, I do miss being able to read without glasses.  When I fall asleep while reading, it is with my glasses on and so sooner or later I wake up again as I roll over and hear a crunch. 
  This week, with 4 inches of snow, decided to get the Cub Cadet snow blower tractor out and make sure it worked.  The battery was weak this summer, so I kept it on a battery maintainer.  However at 0F, it wouldn't turn over at all, even with the booster-charger attached.  So with Scott's help, got the badly buried battery out, traded for a new top-of-the line $36 one at Menards, and then got it pried and bolted back into place. It is taller than the old one, so the mounting strap/wire no longer worked -- a bungy cord now holds it from jiggling around.  

  Started up immediately, and did the driveway.  The first few runs each fall are hard on the machine and driver as the snow usually comes with rain at first and leaves everything frozen in ruts that the blower bounces along over, casting the first stones of winter.   Did a decent job and now, with the maintainer keeping it peak charged, all 360 cold cranking amps (zero degree) should be ready.  I wonder how many turns of the starter are in 360 cold cranking amps?  With the modern hot spark of electronic ignition, starting seems to be easier than good old days of pans of coals, hot water carburetor baths, and cans of ether.  
   We get several Christmas cards each day.  Haven't sent ours out yet, but have good intentions.  We are saving the cards to open and read on Christmas Eve, when we will eggnog our way into the right mood to read the ups and downs, operations, children's successes and trips of our friends and neighbors.  Sort of a binge of catching up with folks we haven't heard from since last Christmas, and may not have seen for 30 years or more.   Rather nice to remember old friends from old jobs and neighborhoods.  
  Nowadays, some of those old friends and relatives are on Facebook, and we are more in contact than we were when we knew them as neighbors.  We use Facebook as a sort of diary of each day here on the Farm.  A few photos, a few comments, the temperature and so on. My attempt was to do a full year of at least one post per day, but actually did more like two per day with photos.  My theory is that writing a public diary with photos is a way of aiding my own memory.  
  I have been doing Facebook since 2007 -- and I can go back (rather painfully as Facebook does not seem to want to make it easy to look back--but everything is there), and find out when maple syrup season began, ended, and whether there was snow on the ground etc.  
My memory for when my real memory fades in photos and in words. You have to have a free account on Facebook to see the posts, but they are "public" meaning not only my friends can see them, but anyone who wants to and has an account.  The link is -- Russ's Facebook pages

  I also run several other Facebook presences including 
   Sterling Eureka and Laketown Historical Society
   Polk County Wisconsin Genealogical Society
   Luck Area Historical Society
   Backyard Maple Syruping
   St Croix River Road Ramble
   Sterling Old Settler's Picnic
The first ones are for organizations and we try to put something on them each week. The last two are for events that happen each year and are active around the event time.  They are quite effective in getting free publicity for the groups and events. 
The world changes how we communicate and taking advantage of the changes can bring us closer to others.  I like it that my relatives and friends in Sweden and Norway too post what it is like there.  I belong to a group of folks who all claim ancestry from the same island chain (Vikna) on the Norwegian coast. It connects those of us who emigrated with those who didn't.  
  In my young days, I was a Ham Radio bug, and that was the only way common folks could connect with others around the world other than mail service that sometimes took months per exchange. KA0KZF, what we called a "technician" license.  That meant lots of theory of electronics, radio and knowledge of the rules and regulations, but only passing a 5 word per minute Morse code speed.  And then you only talked to fellow hams who mostly wanted to talk about their radio equipment.  
   Change, in my mind, is what makes life interesting.  Grandpa PH said "No one will ever live through more change than I have -- starting with oxen, we have a man on the moon in my years on earth."  He didn't quite live to see the man on the moon, but he knew it would happen.   The biggest changes in my lifetime are in medicine and in computers.  Medicine ushered in the antibiotic age, the surgery age, and the coming of medications that actually worked.  Computers went from idea through giant radio tubes, transistors, chips and became pervasive and made things like cell phones available.  My parents thought that TV was the big change in the lives of children, but I think it was merely an extension of Radio that came in while they were young. 
  Change is good--it is what makes life worth living. My new eyes took 15 minutes to put in, cure my nearsightedness along with my astigmatism.  Not long ago, cataracts meant blindness.  Then they meant "coke bottle" glasses.  By the 80s when Dad had it done, a long surgery, and overnight stay, and results that were good, but never quite normal.  My doctor says the next step includes bifocals in the lens, or maybe lenses that focus just like a young person's own eyes; and maybe a zoom lens after that?  


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Winterizing on the Farm and Tractor Troubles

With the warm weather coming to an end (probably the warmest November and warmest overall Autumn I can remember), decided to get to the winterizing.
Tulip bed around the old mailbox in the yard.  When it was hard for Mom to walk down to the road mailbox, the post office allowed her to have one in the yard.  We turned it into a flower bed.

Spent the morning spreading hay to mulch the strawberries, blueberries, tulip bed, septic tank and the drainfield. Most years snow does this, but it is better to be prepared.
Two months ago, I bought a Leyland 344, 1972 diesel tractor from my brother. He had it many years and was ready to get rid of it as he still has two other tractors and it was having some problems.
Snow blower and Leyland both in the machine shed shared by two Farmalls, a lumber pile, corn planter, corn elevator and a much more tools including a full blacksmith setup scattered about.  

So I bought it as a more powerful tractor for the farm. It is about 50 hp, has 3 point hitch, and although older, runs pretty good and has the things an old guy wants, power steering, live PTO, and live hydraulics, all missing on my other tractors.
Diesels are notorious as hard starting in winter. As I hadn't started the Leyland tractor for several weeks -- it started fine in 50F temperatures we have been having, yesterday I thought I would try starting it at 30F.
It turned over a little, but the battery quickly gave out and it never fired at all. So today I followed brother Marv's instruction (it was his tractor) and plugged in the water hose block heater and the battery charger and left them for three hours and then it started up fine. I don't plan on using it for a winter tractor, but was curious if I could--and most tractors should have a monthly start to keep them functional.
The Super C Farmall didn't get its start this year. It wouldn't start, even when Scott pulled it up and down the road. No spark. So I pulled out the battery and the wiring harnesses, hidden away under the steering posts had been invaded and chewed up by a mouse. I have normally cranked this tractor, as the starter bearings are bad, so decided to give it a rejuvenation.
New starter, new battery cables, new on/off switch, new plugs, new points, and new wiring where the mouse had been. Still in the process of working on it -- but the new starter certainly turns over fine even with the 6-volt battery (one year old). So that tractor is a few days and a few parts from being ready.
The 350 Farmall is back in the garage waiting for some more work and the loader I bought from Sister-in-law Connie. Had planned to get that going (it runs OK, but the gas tank needs cleaning, and the steering hydraulic hose leaks, and a few other annoyances as well as it needs new engine rings. But as it is planned to be a loader tractor, the rings can wait. I let it spin over a minute or two so the engine would not rust in place.

Anyway, to get back to the winterizing, tried the Cub Cadet and found out the battery was dead even with my battery maintainer connected. The battery is old, but with a maintainer I had hoped to stall off a new one until next year. It appears the maintainer has given up maintaining, so a new battery and new maintainer are next. The snowblower is really the only winter tractor
I need to run unless I am hauling wood.
I have the 9N Ford which starts good even in winter with a shot of ether in the manifold for hauling wood and with the back blade for cleaning the driveway, but I use that at the maple syrup farm 2 miles away.
The rest of the winterizing is in the house with some plastics on a few of the oldest windows, and some furnace tuning. Ready for the brunt of cold weather ahead soon.
Margo is keeping it warm inside busy baking cookies with help from our son Scott, who likes cooking. They make 5 or 6 batches of one type of cookie each day. This week they made mint chip, peanut butter topped with a Hershey kiss, and pecan balls. They took a few hundred to the open house at the Luck Museum as treats.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Deer hunting story part 2

A few years ago I began a deer hunting story that was continued.  I finished it today.  You need to begin at the beginning, so start at this link.  Deer Hunting Story Part 1   and then continue back here. 

“So where did you hit the deer?” asked Byron, wondering if my hunting story would ever get finished so he could start his.  
“Well, I didn’t find that out until much later.  After I saw the deer floating out in Rogers Lake, I had to figure out how to get it out.  Marv and I had done some fishing that summer at the lake when we worked the afternoon shift at Dresser plastic factory and Dad didn’t have any morning jobs on the farm.”
“That job at UFE was pretty boring.  We sat at the hand plastic molding press, with the cement block wall right behind the machine and used our arms to close the mold, swing over the very hot injector, lock it in place, wait a short time, then swing it back and open the mold, all day long, a straight eight hour shift with 10 minutes for a break and sandwich,” commented Marv.  
“Yeah it was 100 degrees in the building.  I remember we each were allowed a fan – that helped a little.  Got $1.35 per hour – about $50 per week to save for college.  Think we worked there for 3 months – must have made about $600 – about half of the college cost, “ I added. 
“I worked at Stokely’s every summer during college,” said Ev, “got about twice that much with the 90 hour weeks and higher pay.  Enough to pay for a year of college.  And I was so tired of 7 days a week and long hours, even college looked good to me by September.”  
“Do you remember when we went on strike?” added Dad, who also worked one summer and part time other summers on the field crew at Stokely’s too.
“Get back to the deer story,” complained Byron. 
“Well, I walked down along Wolf Creek, walked across at the big beaver dam and found Marv hunting on his 40.”
“I had my 55 Chev Belair, that I earned from working at the Nelson Pea Viner when I was 16 parked at Grandpa’s house.  Figured we might be lucky and Mack Fors’ boat would still be at the lake, so we drove up, opened Uncle Marice’s gate and back to the top of the hill where I parked it.”
“Probably where Rogers’ Hotel was located.  All that is left is a hole in the ground and a lilac bush.  When Dad bought it the building was still standing.  Big wide old white pine boards.   We tore it down and I used some of it in fixing up the barn on the farm,” said Dad referring it his father who had originally bought Uncle Maurice’s farm on Rogers Lake. 
“Did you know Thomas Rogers was killed by being gored by a bull?  His kids divided up the land, several hundred acres, and Clara, who married Charles Marriette, moved down the creek and built the buildings where Grandpa Gene lives now,” said local historian Russ. 
“We scrambled down the snowy hill to the edge of the lake. Mac’s old boat was there tipped upside down with the oars under it.  We got it launched along the trail of old boards that sort of made a path through the thick cattails to the edge of the lake.  I remember if was froze over along the edge, but most of it was still open.  We sort of shoved an oared it out to the open water and then rowed out to the middle where the buck was floating high in the water, looped a rope over his horns and started rowing back when we noticed the boat was leaking pretty badly.”
“Yah, you gotta put those old wood boats in the water for a week to swell up before you use them every spring or they leak like a sieve,” commented Dad.  “We used to saw out some thin ½ inch basswood planks for boats when I was a kid and my dad had his big sawmill. Big wide planks for the sides and a flat bottom with a few ribs.  Could make one in a day even with hand tools.  They were light, watertight after they swelled up, and lasted several years if you painted them and kept them in the water all summer.”
“There was an old coffee can in the bottom, so Russ bailed while I rowed as fast as I could until we got on the shore.  By then we had both stepped into the lake edges and our boots were soaking wet inside, and it was really cold outside too.”
“I remember we dragged it up on the shore to hard ground on the hillside and you did the gutting,” I said.  “You had done it before, and I hadn’t.   I remember the deer insides were warm, and felt good to my frozen wet fingers.”
“So where did you shoot it?” asked Ev.  
“It was really odd” said Marv, “no bullet holes in the deer at all, and even when we skun it out later, no holes in the skin.  Almost like the deer died of a heart attack from seeing Russ whale away with his gun.”
“It was all bled out inside, so it was hit good.  Just no entry or exit wound.  We didn’t find a bullet inside either, but we didn’t really look through the guts and we left the heart, lungs, and innards,” I said. 
“It was decent sized 6 point buck.  Sort of short fork, but husky horns” said Ev who every Sunday sat at the dinner table at Mom’s across from the mounted deer horns on the wall. 
“So did you ever get a theory on how you shot it?” asked Byron.
“Yes, you remember how I told you that when I shot, the buck sort of jumped in the air did a bunch of gyrations and twisting around before taking off after I shot him from the rear?  Well, I think I shot him right in the bung hole, and with his gyrations the bullet went right up through the twists and turns of his intestines, into the stomach and then out into the heart, where it probably lodged.  Only way I match the lack of holes and the inside damage.   Probably that doesn’t happen every day, but that is what happened.”

“Do you remember the big buck I shot on the sand – back in ’67,” began Byron, before the rest of the folks could digest the bullet story.  

Monday, November 14, 2016

Cataract Surgery record and cost estimate

11/11/2016 Cataract Surgery Details
(This is my medical record of the left eye cataract surgery.  My comments are in parenthesis).  
Date of Surgery: 11 NOV 2016
Visit Type: Outpatient
PostOp Diagnosis: Senile cataract, left eye.  

(Not sure if the cataract was senile or the patient)

Procedure: > Phacoemulsification with implantation of a Toric intraocular lens, left eye.
(slice and dice the old lens suck it out and put in the new one)

Lot/Serial #: 21136080007, Catalog/Model #: sn6at5-17.0D, Implant Name: lens, toric aspheric sn6at5-17.0, Manufacturer: Alcon Laboratories.

(information as to lens information for possible recall.  I wonder if the serial number is written into the lens so my body could be id’d by it like breast implants -- maybe a bar code?)

Implant Placement: Left In the preoperative holding room, the horizontal meridian of the left eye was marked with the patient in the upright position using the Toric lens marking system. The patient was then brought to the operating room where the correct surgical site was confirmed with the patient, the medical record, and all members of the surgical team.

(with the Sharpie pen marked top and bottom for lens on my skin around the eye )

Under monitored anesthesia care, a retrobulbar injection of 2% lidocaine solution with hyaluronidase was given. With adequate anesthesia and akinesia, the left eye was prepped and draped in the usual sterile fashion. A lid speculum was placed to retract the eyelids, and the operating microscope was rotated into position. Using the markings that had been placed preoperatively, the 65-degree meridian was identified and marked using the Toric lens marking system.

( draped -- Covered all of my head but my left eye hole opening with a Menard’s-like tarp, numbed it and propped it open, and got the microscope in place to magnify the eye area.  The doctor didn’t use his naked eye to see what he was doing, but a highly zoomed in view to see all the tiny details of my eye)

A paracentesis was then created at the inferotemporal limbus using a No. 75 blade. Through this limbal paracentesis, the anterior chamber was inflated with Healon Endocoat. The anterior chamber was entered again, this time through the temporal limbus using the diamond blade. A capsulorrhexis was initiated using a bent 25-gauge needle as a cystitome and was completed in continuous and circular fashion using the capsulorrhexis forceps.
(cut a tiny opening into the eye lens lining and got the ultrasonic probe into the lens area)

The lens nucleus was then hydrodissected and hydrodelineated using balanced salt solution injected through a 27-gauge cannula. The phacoemulsification tip was introduced into the anterior chamber and was used to sculpt two perpendicular grooves in the lens nucleus. Using these grooves, the lens was mechanically disassembled into four equal quadrants, each of which was emulsified and aspirated in turn.

(using salt water, pressured syringed the old lens loose from its covering -- the lens capsule, Then using the tiny ultrasound probe like a knife, cut the old lens into four pie wedge sections and then broke each of those four into tiny fragments and sucked them out)
The residual cortical material was removed using the automated irrigation-aspiration handpiece, and the capsular bag was polished with the irrigating polisher. The capsular bag was reinflated with Healon, and the wound did not require enlargement.

(Cleaned up the lens parts. The old lens was held in a capsule (lining) and polished that smooth and clear so all of the old lens was out and ready for the new one).

A 17.0-diopter single-piece acrylic Alcon model SN6AT5 acrylic Toric intraocular lens was loaded into the injection cartridge and was inserted into the capsular bag where it was allowed to unfold in its appropriate position. The lens was oriented at the 65-degree meridian as suggested by the Toric lens calculator.

(Inserted the new lens that was folded up tiny, and then unfolded it into the right spot and adjusted it to be lined up for the astigmatism angle.  Toric is the name for a lens with astigmatism correction built in -- an additional $1000 cost to me, but worth it as it will actually mean I can see distance without glasses).

The lens power selected was based on a careful review of the optical biometry measurements (IOLMaster) that were obtained preoperatively. The residual viscoelastic material was removed in its entirety using the automated irrigation-aspiration handpiece, and the wound was demonstrated to be self-sealing with no suture required. Cefuroxime was instilled into the anterior chamber at the conclusion of the procedure. The lid speculum was removed, and the eye was patched with Maxitrol, following which a shield was placed.
(With everything correct, and the tiny opening so small no sewing up needed, everything was removed, and a few bandages and a shield taped over the eye)

The patient tolerated the procedure well, and there were no complications. The total phacoemulsification time was 42.7 seconds with an average phacoemulsification power of 29.9%. The cumulative delivery of energy (C.D.E.) was 5.16. The patient returned to the preoperative holding room in satisfactory condition.
(The time on the machine to get rid of the old lens was 42.7 seconds,  Probably the machine cost is about $1000 per minute so maybe the time is to charge for that very expensive unit).  

The Medicare estimate of cataract removal appears to show that my cost is $728.  I think my supplemental insurance will cover most of that. I selected a $1000 extra option for the Toric lens to get rid of the large amount of astigmatism in my eye.  I always figured the astigmatism was in the lens, and that it would go away with a new lens, but it is in the cornea in front of the lens which is not replaced in cataract surgery.  The cornea can be fixed with laser surgery sometimes -- what they call Lasik I think.  Anyway I chose to deastigmatize with the lens.  

Medicare estimate  (I pay about $728).  
I chose the Toric astigmatism correcting lens so that added $1000
My Medicare supplemental insurance will likely cover most of the $728 if I have my co-pay deductibles for the year paid already.  

Friday, November 11, 2016

I Can See Clearly Now, the Cataract has Gone

Cataract removal – left eye   Day 1  11/11/2016

At 7:15 am I checked into Mayo Clinic Gonda Desk 7 for my cataract surgery.  Some forms to fill out and then 15 minutes waiting.
  I visited with a woman, probably in her 40s who was having the first of two cataracts done.  “I can’t see well enough to drive now, and should have done this earlier, but was scared to do it.  However, Dad had his done recently, and he said it was wonderful, and pushed me into getting it done.”
Some of the pre-cataract surgery eye exam machines

Bed side monitoring machines

  A member of the surgery team then took be to the back to a small room—sort of a hospital bed room, but smaller.  I set in a chair that was both chair, hospital cart and hospital bed—my home for the next hour and a half.
After the id check (state your name and birth date) affixing a wrist band, connecting heart monitoring electrodes (the ones that stick over your chest hair and act as hair removers when they are detached), and an IV opening.  I had a few minutes alone, so got out of the chair and watched the heart monitor and blood pressure monitor.  Heart rate was 72, with an occasional skipped or abnormal beat (something I have had for 30 year and is considered normal), and blood pressure was 136 over 115.  The 115 is too high, and I can hear my family doctor rattling me about losing weight, exercising and taking some BP medicine when I see her in three weeks for my annual lecture on healthy living.  
Prepared for surgery with eye numbing gunk oozed into the eye and taped over to hold it there
The nurse who hooked up the IV tried the left hand for a vein, then the right hand, sticking me each time (these sticks are hardly noticeable as the needles are very small) and finally got one in the left arm.  Flabby veins or something like that was the comment.
The anesthesiologist came in, someone as old as I am, and got some more info and told me I was going to be given a local cream based numbing agent that would deaden the whole area around the eye, as well as a mellowing agent through the IV as I would be awake and somewhat alert during the procedure, but they didn’t want me too alert.
He said “I think I must have worked with you back in the 80s—at least Russ Hanson sounds familiar.”  I wasn’t quite in my best memory mode so couldn’t make the connection, but later realized that group I worked in at that time had one project to computerize the anesthesiology surgery record – and likely bumped into him then.  Still a little vague though.  I spent 25 years at Mayo and was in a lot of projects and am much more memorable to others than they are to me, as I was always involved in projects that brought change (computers) and folks were generally rather intimidated by changing to computers in those days. And things that happened 30 years ago are not quite as clear to me nowadays anyway.  
Dr. Kanna, my surgeon dropped in, now making about 5 folks in the small room and marked with a Sharpie pen a dot above the left eye to make sure the left eye was the right one to operate on.  Then he marked the orientation of the lens ---“have to get it in right as it has astigmatism correction—so there is a top, bottom, and angle to measure.”  More black marks around the eye  -- sort of like a bullseye with crosshairs (I actually couldn’t see them, but they may show up after I get the patch off).
The preliminaries all done, the chair was wheeled to the surgery area.  “How many cataracts in a day done here?” I asked. “About 24 today (three surgeons working today) and as high as 32 on busy days.”   I think they do two surgery days a week most of the time.    Scott, in the waiting room, said he watched a steady progression of folks going in with glasses and coming out with eye patches.
The Mayo building and the Gonda building are two buildings that appear as one inside.  Seventh floor on the Mayo side is the eye doctor side, and on the Gonda side is the surgery side.  Some of seventh is for urology, so I made sure the nurse pushing my chair aimed towards the eye surgery area.
The operating room was the size of a large living room, lots of instrumentation, and machines.  I was tilted flat, the chair becoming a bed, and the hovering folks began to hover.  One kept the IV (anesthesia) dripping and monitored my vital signs; a couple were the surgery assistants, and some others were there to save any removed parts in case of an autopsy. 
“If it is alright with you, I am going to video the procedure today.  Monday I am gving a talk to the folks in the eye area about cataract surgery and want to show them. Most of the staff never get back to the operating room,” said the surgeon. 
“Sure” I said, hoping I might get a copy of it for myself.  However that does not appear to be likely as I asked him about it after the surgery.  “Not even sure it recorded OK, and then we have to edit it before the talk.”  However, I will nudge him on this again in 3 weeks when I see him for the progress report.
My guess is he chose me for the model patient for the staff to see as my photogenicity is really quite high. 
As I had ask him to describe what he was doing during the surgery so I could understand it, and that fit with the video, I got the blow by blow details.  Although I was mildly sedated, I think I can remember the gist of it all.
I was in my street clothes, with only my glasses off and some blue paper shoe covers.  No removal of belts, shirts, or anything, but a hospital gown over my shirt. Then my head was completely covered with a blue tarp (not Menards), with a hole cut out so to the operating staff, I was an eye peering out of the sea of blue plastic.
The rest I am going to write as if the doctor said it, but as I was a little woozy and of course I can’t remember exactly, you have to accept there is likely some missing, added, and misstated parts.
“First we open a tiny hole in the edge of the eye to insert the ultrasonic probe into the lens.  Then, with my foot pedal (speed control?) I use the probe to make four pie slices of the round sort squashed spherical lens (think of a soft M&M candy).  Then I vibrate each slice into small fragments and use the vacuum part of the probe to suck out the fragments.  The lens is inside a lining so I carefully clean it out right up to the capsule that holds it and suck it all out.”
The ultrasound probe and vacuum made different musical tones based on speed or vacuum level (not sure which or maybe both).  “The sound helps me gauge the speed/vacuum levels so I can tell how the probe is working.”
I was able to ask questions and seemed like I was rational, and I asked “How do you get the big lens into the tiny opening, or do you have to make it bigger and swe it up?”  “The lens is sort of folded up and I can slide it into the empty capsule and unfolded it inside.  It is a flexible plastic, so it bends easily.  The opening is so small I don’t have to sew it up after I get the lens in.”
“Now I have the lens inside, and I have to get it oriented the correct way so your astigmatism axis is right.  There are several adjustments I do sliding it around until it is just where it is supposed to be.   After surgery it takes a while for it to get fixed into place and so you have to be gentle with your head movements and keep your fingers out of your eye so it remains lined up perfectly.”
“All done.  Everything went the way it is supposed to.   Looks good.  Now you can get unhooked and I’ll see you at 3:30 pm this afternoon.   Remember, it will look strange at first, and gradually get better and better over several months, although in a day or too should be usable.  See you this afternoon”  Don’t drive today, and let me know if anything seems abnormal.”   Abnormal was changes like flashes of light, worsening vision instead of improving, pain, etc. 
And I got unhooked, some more instructions on being gentle on the head and eye for a month or so, and walked out with Scott, my left eye patched with some gauze and a metal shield. 
Getting around with one eye, as I had already learned with Myasthenia Gravis in 2012 (I had to patch one eye for a few months to get rid of double vision), is sort of like dropping your vision level to 1/3 of what it was with two eyes.  Everything seems unreal and incompletely there.  And sitting in the passenger seat with Scott driving was clearly necessary as I didn’t think I would have felt safe to drive myself yet.
At home, I took off the shield to put in the two different kind of post surgery drops (5 minutes apart) and got really worried.  I could see through that eye, but everything was sort of like looking through a snowstorm and whatever came through the left eye was slanted about 30 degrees – like the TV screen was tilted that much—the whole world was.   Gee whiz, did the doctor get the lens put in rotated by 30 degrees?
Remembering the doctor and nurses said “your vision won’t be normal for a day or two, and then will keep improving for months” I refused to panic and turned to Dr. Google who assured me that as the numbing agent wears off, the slant should go away too.  At 1:45 pm, I tipped up the patch to look out and the world is level with both eyes, but the left eye sees a white fog over everything.  So I won’t panic yet, but keep waiting to see what happens.

Post surgery with temporary eye shield and still a little sleepy from the mellowing agents
Update:   4 pm day of surgery
The good news: went in for my post surgery checkup and took the eye patch off and I can see pretty good already with that eye. The doctor says it will take a few more days to get to normal, but everything looks pretty good. 

The bad news: My glasses are no longer any use for the left eye as it has been corrected. I can't really get new glasses until about 1 month when the vision is completely stable from the surgery. "All I have to do is remove the left lens from my old glasses and the distance vision will be good" I told the doctor.
"Don't you remember me telling you that doesn't work right with severe nearsightedness like yours?" he replied.
"Sort of, but remind me why again"
"Your right eye still has to use the glasses -- and for nearsightedness, the lens makes everything you see smaller. And your new left eye leaves them larger, like they should be. So you will see one big image on top of a small one. It will be enough difference it will confuse your brain"
"So can't I get glasses that will fix that?"
"No, you either have to shut one eye or patch one, or get your other eye done too. I knew you would need that, so if you want to go ahead, I scheduled it in 30 days on December 9th. That is as close to each other as we do the second eye."
So I am in that sort of between stage where my new eye sees much better, but won't work together with the old one. I already learned to read with one eye shut, and drive with one eye shut when I had myasthenia gravis double vision, so its back to that for a month.
The new eye lens gives me whiter whites, more colorful colors, but is still a little foggy -- sort of like a bar in the smoking days. That is supposed to clear away soon. Overall, I think it was quick, easy, painless, and likely to improve my life. However seeing folks more clearly may change some of my friendships.
In college, a girl friend always took off her glasses when I came to join her at the library or lunch table. "You are just vain and want to look better," I told her. "No I take them off so you will look better!"

Friday, November 4, 2016

November's Bright Warm Weather

Time to plant fall bulbs and keep some for forcing

I grind up leaves with the mower. 
November 2016 has started with exceptionally mild weather, continuing the September and October trend.  Here on the Farm, our flowerbeds are mostly still in bloom, some tomato plants are still growing, and the fall raspberry plants are bearing.  According to my calculations we have had 200 days growing season so far, with the first real killing frost here on top of the hill at least a week away. 

We did have a couple of frosts that hit the tops of the morning glories and a few tomato vines, but that just pruned them a little. 

Hauled a couple of loads of wood to the cabin from Grantsburg where friend Walt's trees are dying from Oak Wilt. Sad to see so many oaks dead or dying in this area. Have to cut a few more loads of dead elm (died from Dutch Elm disease) and will be ready for maple syrup season in March. With the Ash trees next in line to die, the butternuts mostly gone too, one wonders if there will be any left in the future.

Best chance is for scientists to genetically modify the trees to adapt them to the problems. Right now there is not enough profit to be made in doing that, but in a few years, the process will be even easier than it is today so we may see some of these trees come back again.

Elms are somewhat different in that they seem to be able to grow to about 20 years old before getting diseased--and that gives them time to reseed more elms. The huge spreading elms in the cow pasture of my youth all died in the 1960s and 70s so my son has never seen the elm lined streets of a city that we remember. However, the 20 year old elms are perfect for firewood. They die during the spring or summer, and a year later, still standing, they are dry and immediately ready to cut and burn. Don't know how I got along with out them in the old days, as now we have a ready supply of dried wood available at anytime -- there are many of them along the road ditches and farm fencelines and in the open patures.

The parts came in that should let me repair the starter on the Farmall Super C tractor. The starter solenoid (a mechanical one) and the battery cables are weak, and I think the starter may be wearing out too, but first the cheap parts go in. I haven't used the starter for years, as I just crank it, but it would be nice to have it start easier! The old 6-volt tractors never did turn over very well, and so most of my tractors are converted to 12 volts--probably should do that with the Super C too, as 12 volts to a 6 volt starter turn it over faster and don't require such heavy cables.

A few photos from the Farm and neighborhood this week.

Painting the house -- this is the north side.  The bottom part is done, top part scraped and ready for primer and a coat of finish paint

Didn't sell apples this year.  The extremely wet year caused a great deal of apple scab, rusts and other problems making so many blemishes the apples didn't look appealing at all.  Next year I add a fungicide to the Sevin spray I use.  Warmer and wetter years, what scientists predicted for us in Global Warming, is here.  For us, it means an earlier maple syrup season as well as getting used to wet warm conditions that foster more plant problems. 

Got the west side and here (north) sides of the house painted this fall.  Only the east side left -- for next year.  The house was built in 1917, so the new paint is to celebrate 100 years!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Autumnal Eco Knocks

Autumn colors are coming fast.  Took a walk to the pond on the Farm and enjoyed the quiet, only broken by the distant sound of combines in the soybean fields.